Pinellas Park aims to punch up codes
By ANNE LINDBERG
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 17, 2000
PINELLAS PARK -- Saying the police and code enforcement cannot be relied on to solve persistent code violations, City Council member Rick Butler wants the power to shut down problem businesses.
Butler's tool for closing those businesses would be a nuisance abatement board, which also would have the power to fine Pinellas Park businesses that failed to correct problems.
Butler made his pitch for the new board during a Tuesday workshop. Other council members were so intrigued by the idea that they agreed city staff members should study creation of such a group for Pinellas Park.
"Obviously, we do have some businesses that do need additional services from time to time," Butler said.
"We have hotels that are higher burdens on our police and fire. We have other businesses that are a higher burden, and I think (we should) see if we can use this to try and improve some of our areas."
One of those problem businesses, Butler said, is Friendship Villas on Park Boulevard.
"It started out as a beautiful 1950s shuffleboard resort," Butler said. "Now it's turned into nothing more than a glorified, uh, do I need to go any further or is everyone in the picture?"
Someone in the room muttered "transients," meaning the business caters to people who cannot afford a better place to stay.
Butler continued, saying the police are often called out to Friendship Villas because of problems with the tenants. But police, he said, can do only so much.
It's time, he said, that "government has a chance to step in and say, "You are a nuisance. We're either going to fine you or shut you down.' "
Butler added, "I think that this is the big kahuna; they can actually shut it down. They can shut it down."
Mayor Bill Mischler asked whether it would be necessary to appoint others to a nuisance abatement board or would council members serve.
"We could be if you choose to be," Butler said.
Butler explained further: "I think we're personally fooling ourselves if we're going to rely on the Police Department to solve all our ills here in the city. It's not going to happen. . . .
"What I'm looking at is an alternative that would be a more effective code enforcement tool because I'm not happy with our current code enforcement that's going on. Does that make sense? I have to look at alternatives when things in my own feeble opinion don't seem to be working. . . . I cannot rely on the police or code enforcement at this point."
Council member Ed Taylor wanted to know whether the board would deal with problem residences or only with businesses.
Butler answered, "It would have to be commercial or multifamily, something that is income derived. It could even be as simple as a rental house if it got to a point you found out it was a crack house."
Mischler agreed the board might be a good idea.
"Let's look at the pros and cons," he said.
On Thursday, Mischler gave an indication of how taken he was with the idea. He commented during the council meeting to former Mayor Cecil Bradbury that council members might form a nuisance abatement board.
Bradbury, he said, could serve on it.
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